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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, February 3, 1976. Interview G-0040-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

General strike of 1934 comes to an end in Birmingham, Alabama

Here, McGill describes the end of the general strike of the United Textile Workers Union in 1934. According to McGill, one reason the strike had to be called off was because of the lack of effective leadership and division within the organization at its fledgling local level in Birmingham, Alabama. Despite the failure of the strike, however, McGill remembers that she was not disillusioned because she saw the strike as a progressive step in the right direction for the labor movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, February 3, 1976. Interview G-0040-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
How did the strike come to an end?
EULA MCGILL:
Well, we just called it off.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did people react when the United Textile Workers Union called off the strike? Did they feel like the union had given them as much support as they should have? Did they feel sold out at all when it was called off?
EULA MCGILL:
Well, some people (for instance Jim) got just very disgruntled, Jim Rogers. I know me and him had a physical fight [laughter].
JACQUELYN HALL:
You and him did?
EULA MCGILL:
One time in the union hall, fighting about the representatives, you know.squabbling, because they had really no true leadership. And Jim took to drinking a lot, and he caused a lot of confusion. Well, not no physical fight; he knocked me down [laughter]. But this woman I started to tell you about who helped me a lot in the mill. . . . He was drunk at the meeting and just making a mess of the meeting, and I went to ask him to please sit down. He was just going on and on and on and on, and somebody was supposed to introduce this speaker. We had a guest speaker; you know, we'd do that, try to have a little rally. Different people would come around and talk, more experienced union people. We were having a night meeting, and I went over and said, "Jim, why don't you go ahead and introduce the speaker?" And he turned on me. And this good old friend that I got (she couldn't read and write; she'd always depend on me to tell her everything and read things to her, and she used to help me a little bit), she got up and she told him, "Don't you jump on her." And she started fighting him-she was that type of person-and in the fracas he knocked me down [laughter]. So that was a mess.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you didn't feel like there was good strong leadership at the local level?
EULA MCGILL:
No, no. Not enough good advice, and not enough communication. It wasn't nobody's fault; it was just bigger than they could handle. They weren't prepared to handle something that big. I remember that after we went back in the plant to work, why, they made this one guy a boss, strawboss-one of the guys that had sold us out. He came down there and started saying something to me one day, and I said, "Oh, you get away from me, you scab." And he said, "Well, I ain't no scab, but I can't swallow that Frank Gorman." I said, "Well, I don't have to follow Frank Gorman. If you're a union person you don't pick out somebody and just follow them, you follow the union." But that's the only thing I ever heard. You know, but of course he was trying to fix. . . . He said he was still a union man; he was trying to blame it on Frank Gorman, and we never had seen him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you get any help from the State Federation of Labor? Were they wholeheartedly behind the strike?
EULA MCGILL:
No; I mean, they just weren't able to give any kind of physical or financial support.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when the strike was called off and you went back to work, you yourself didn't have any feelings of disillusionment with the union?
EULA MCGILL:
No. It was something we tried and failed, like the people during World War I: I'd seen it, they tried and failed. And you get a little stronger even if you fail; you get a little stronger each time. That's the way I felt about it, because I'd seen what had happened in World War I. It didn't disillusion me that we failed that time. Some people won; we weren't a failure. We didn't win, but look at what we picked up, and look at the unions that are still in existence today from that. There were gains made, although we may have lost.